Drug diversion is defined as the misappropriation of prescription medication without legal authorization. The most common examples are when a physician writes a prescription for narcotics without a legitimate medical necessity or when a nurse diverts medication from a pyxis machine. Drug diversion allegations are very serious in nature and could lead to criminal charges if state or federal authorities are contacted. There are a number of state and federal investigators charged with combating drug diversion: state licensing investigators (LARA & DOH), DEA Office of Diversion Control, Michigan State Police Narcotics Enforcement Teams, HEAT, Florida Drug Enforcement Strike Force, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), etc.
If an allegation of drug diversion is referred to your state licensing board (i.e. Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, etc.) an investigator will be assigned to your case. The investigator will likely call you after he/she has completed their investigation of the allegations of drug diversion / stealing drugs. Do not meet with the state investigator without an attorney qualified to handle complex drug diversion allegations. After the state investigator concludes their investigation, the case may either be referred to local police, the Michigan State Police, Florida State Police, or the Attorney General’s office for criminal charges. Regardless of whether or not the state desires to pursue criminal charges, the investigation will also be forwarded to your licensing board (Board of Medicine, Board of Osteopathic Medicine, Nursing Board, physician’s task force, Board of Pharmacy, etc.) to determine if a formal complaint is issued. If a formal complaint is filed accusing you of drug diversion, your case will then follow the formal administrative complaint process.
The DEA Office of Diversion Control was set up to combat serious cases of drug diversion against physicians, mid-level providers, and nurses. The DEA investigates and assists the Department of Justice in indicting physicians, mid-level providers, nurses and pharmacists for criminal drug diversion in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). When the DEA concludes their investigation, the DOJ will determine if Federal prosecution is appropriate or whether they should defer to state prosecutors or the state licensing board. When the DEA investigates diversion, they often send undercover officers or patients to the practice or pharmacy to attempt to obtain narcotics for “other than legitimate medical need.” Sometimes they approach patients and attempt to coerce cooperation, and have them visit the practice while being recorded. After they establish their case, the DEA will raid a practice or pharmacy in cooperation with local authorities and the FBI. This will result in negative media coverage of the practice. During the raid, they always attempt to obtain a “statement” from providers in the practice or pharmacy. Do not make a statement to DEA agents without the advice and assistance of a knowledgeable diversion defense attorney.
Generally, by the time the practice is raided, the DEA and the DOJ have obtained enough evidence to charge the physicians, nurses, pharmacists and mid-level providers at the practice, and an indictment may already be issued but remains under seal. When faced with drug diversion allegations, it is vitally important that you obtain qualified attorney at the first hint that you are under investigation because by the time you realize that you are under investigation, you may have already been charged. (See here for more information about unlawful prescribing and dispensing charges).
Even if you do not face criminal charges, your case may be referred to a prosecutor during or after state licensing proceedings. Criminal charges stemming from drug diversion / stealing drugs are very common and nurses, physicians, pharmacists and mid-level providers need to be cautious when responding to a state letter of investigation for drug diversion related allegations. Any statements you make to a state licensing investigator can subsequently be used against you for criminal charges.
We have represented countless physicians, pharmacists and nurses in a wide range of drug diversion allegations from multiple count federal indictments to minor licensing infractions. Our attorneys regularly represent doctors, nurses and pharmacists accused of drug diversion. We assist health providers at all stages of the drug diversion case, including representing providers when speaking to investigators, defending providers in board hearings and administrative hearings, dissolving license suspensions and fighting referrals to impairment programs (HPRP, PRN and IPN). We also assist health providers accused of drug diversion by an employer, by working with the employer to resolve the allegations before they are reported to the Board. (See here for more information about employers reporting drug diversion to the Board).
If you have been accused of drug diversion, please contact our attorneys immediately so that we may help protect you professional license. Our goal is fight allegations as early as possible to prevent formal action and discipline. Often, we are able to have the allegations of drug diversion dismissed at the investigation level, if we are contacted before the provider speaks with the investigator. We have also obtained dismissals of formal complaints and dissolved suspension orders. (See here for results of some of our drug diversion cases).
We are passionate about the defense of health professionals and are dedicated to protecting the licenses, careers and reputations of health providers. Please contact our attorneys immediately if you accused of drug diversion. We would be honored to represent you and help you defeat allegations of drug diversion.